While I don't usually take small group tours as a travel medium, when traveling to some locations where time is limited and there is much to see, a small group tour can really make that extra investment pay off over that of a self-guided visit to another country.
This can most certainly be the case in countries where the first language is not English or the language can be difficult to learn - even the basics, sufficient enough to get a traveler through the trip, is where a small group tour may also be of benefit.
If you are a solo traveler like me then you can appreciate the benefits a small group tour can provide including getting to know your fellow travel companions, which in itself can be an education. Certainly on my small group travel tour to Russia last year, I found the cost of paying the additional 'single supplement' to be well worth the cost for the overall experience.
On my travels to Russia in 2016, I opted for a small group tour over my normal self-guided style. My reasons for doing this were mainly around my preference to visit as many of the key sights as possible in a short period of time, a total of 12 days.
Additionally a small group tour will pre-arrange in most instances, as well as include the cost of entry to any of the noted tourism spots such as in my case to The Hermitage Museum, Sapsan High Speed Train and river cruises amongst other tour highlights. Transfers too are a snap, so no need to hail a cab or arrange any other forms of transport. In my example the cost of preparing my Russian Visa was co-ordinated and included in the cost of the overall tour.
Most group tours are structured to a certain degree, but still allow for plenty of free time thrown in to explore the cities and towns you will be visiting.
A small group tour offered a product that was well organized, included transportation (a fully air-conditioned modern mini-bus) to and from each site, together with entry tickets - meaning I would not be required to stand in line to purchase tickets at each site, where visitors flock in their thousands to visit daily. Can you just imagine the length of the line for key historical sites including the Hermitage Museum and St. Isaacs Cathedral?
In addition as a small group (on my tour there were no more than 13 people) in most instances, the group were able to bypass the long lines of people already lined up to enter these sites. which meant we were able to spend more time at the site, rather than in line.
Tips In Choosing A Small Group Tour
Depending upon where and how you plan to travel, you may decide small group travel is a good fit in consideration of your destination. If so then the following considerations are worth spending some time on prior to selecting an itinerary, and the tour operator with whom you will travel.
Tours can and do range considerably regarding pace and difficulty. This can affect your overall experience and level of enjoyment of the whole journey significantly, so do some research to determine the level of energy required to keep pace with your group.
Request information from the tour organizer regarding the size and demographic of tour group to ensure the number remains reasonable and you wont be spending the next 10 days with a group of high school graduates (not that there's anything wrong with that!). The information can usually be found on the tour company website, if not send them an email and ask them.
Be clear about what 'all inclusive' means. Will there be any out of pocket expenses, including tipping over and above the tour cost? Confirm how many meals are included or excluded from the tour cost.
Consider also how long you will want to spend on a tour. While often a small group tour is a great introductions to new countries allowing you to see some inaccessible or hard to get to places, there is always room to see much, much more of any destination on your own when your tour finishes.